It’s been nearly four years since the release of Only, Jenny Besetzt’s debut record. After consistent lineup changes, shifting romantic relationships, and relocating to different cities, Jenny Besetzt’s latest album, Tender Madness, is the result of a simmering uncertainty as to where the present might lead. Where Jenny’s debut was a romantic and memory-filled love letter to the passing of adolescence, Tender Madness is writ with affirmations moving forward – comforting words to siblings, gratitude for new love, acceptance after grief.
The lyrics of lead songwriter John Wollaber carry the sonic weight of the album and emerge through a voice both melancholy and warm. The words penned for these songs are intimate, reflective, and place a great deal of trust in the listener. Each song carries a full narrative of its own, like a secret story marked on a bathroom wall or anonymously signed in a library book. The difference is that Wollaber had the temerity to author them on stage and on record.
Jenny Besetzt now demand their space. Recorded in a mere few days at Legitimate Business in Greensboro, N.C., the album is exact: a crystalized artifact formed from years of carving out every song in front of an audience. Structurally, the arrangements on Tender Madness exude a willingness to dig deeper for darker, rougher layers beneath the surface, trading pop verses and choruses for momentary instances that feel more life-like (“Authorless Speech”, “Black As The Night”). Drums and bass drive with intent to move, while guitars and keys surround and ensnare. The tension of kinetic and hypnotic energy on songs like “Lunar Talks” produce an addictive experience, alluring with every listen. But the most captivating are the record’s final two tracks, “Tender Madness” and “The Rabbit”, where spiritual forgiveness and meditative vulnerability act as a prayer and hymn, respectively, to close out a new chapter for one of North Carolina’s most rewarding bands.